Civil unions, civility return to House

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Civil unions, civility return to House

Freshly minted speaker calls for an end to anti-government rhetoric
Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, right, is congratulated by his twin sister, Nicole McWhirter, left, and Ferrandino’s husband, Greg Wertsch, on Wednesday as the Colorado Legislature opened its general session in the State Capitol in Denver.
Local lawmakers set sights on the practical

DENVER – Durango’s delegation to the state Legislature already has several bills lined up.

For freshman Rep. Mike McLachlan, a Democrat, the first few weeks are about getting his feet wet, and his first set of bills will not cause much statewide controversy.

For veteran Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican, this will be a year to get involved in high-profile debates about health care and education.

She’ll have to do that in a year when rival Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor‘s office.

“I’ve been in single-party control before, so I recognize the need to be practical and pragmatic,” Roberts said.

She has two bills about the use of technology in education. One would let school board members attend meetings by remote video. The second would expand the use of specialized online classes in small schools that can’t afford a full-time teacher for, perhaps, an obscure language.

Young people are already used to the technology, Roberts said, and she knows kids who do their homework together over video conferencing.

“I think maybe we adults could learn to take advantage of technology in the same way,” Roberts said.

Roberts will serve as the lead Republican on the Senate’s health-care committee. She’s planning to sponsor a bill to crack down on Medicaid fraud, and she opposes Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recent move to let more people join Medicaid.

“I think we need to be focused on delivery of services and the cost of those services, and not just handing somebody a Medicaid or insurance card,” Roberts said.

McLachlan is starting with three relatively simple bills.

One would give free fishing licenses to active duty military personnel in the Wounded Warriors program.

A second bill seeks to address the $1,000 limit on municipal court fines. The limit might not be high enough to cover damage that some large trucks can inflict on small towns, McLachlan said.

He also has a bill to allow the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to hire a director who doesn’t have police officer certification. The change would open the door to a wider range of applicants, he said.

Like all freshmen, McLachlan has extra time to introduce his second batch of bills, and he said he will have more legislation later this year.



jhanel@durangoherald.com

Civil unions, civility return to House

Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, right, is congratulated by his twin sister, Nicole McWhirter, left, and Ferrandino’s husband, Greg Wertsch, on Wednesday as the Colorado Legislature opened its general session in the State Capitol in Denver.
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